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[Robert Voorhis, b 1769 or 70, Henry Trumbull 1781-1843]
[Life and Adventures of Robert, the Hermit of Massachusetts]
[Printed for H. Trumbull, 1829]


The following annotations to Life and Adventures of Robert, the Hermit of Massachusetts were compiled in the fall 2013 by Brady Blackburn and Gemma Herrera, first-year students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a class project in Professor William L. Andrews's First-Year Seminar on Slavery and Freedom in African American Literature and Film. We welcome any corrections, additions, or suggested revisions of these annotations. Send feedback to

Cover Picture and Page

Drawing of Robert the HermitPrint taken from the original Robert the Hermit pamphlet. Probably a carved wooden ink stamp (

Cover Page Cover page of the original Robert the Hermit pamphlet.

Page verso

Rhode IslandA small state bordering Massachusetts and Connecticut on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Robert lived in Massachusetts along the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border.

To wit.idiom for "that is to say . . ."

Henry TrumbullClergyman and renowned author from Stonington, Connecticut. Author/editor of this pamphlet. Massachusetts A state in the New England region of the United States. Massachusetts was the destination of many fugitive slaves seeking to escape the southern slave-holding states.

Page 5

Rods — Unit of measurement used by surveyors equal to 5 1/2 yards.

Seekonk RiverA 5-mile long tidal extension of the Providence River.

Providence BridgeMost likely either a small bridge in that would have been in Providence or where a Providence Street may have crossed the Seekonk River.

Providence The capital city of Rhode Island.

Page 6

"Strange and mysterious being"Most likely a Rhode Islander's quoted description of Robert.

The Literary CadetA bi-weekly newspaper published from 1826-1829 in Rhode Island.

"Beneath a mountain's brow . . ."The poem "Beneath a Mountain's Brow" by John Trumbull, despite being cited to Homes Douglass. John Trumbull was not related to Henry Trumbull.

Page 7

"But from the mountain's . . ." From the poem "The Hermit" by Oliver Goldsmith, part of his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766).

Page 8

Delf wareAlso spelled "delft ware" or "delftware." Pottery generally made in the Netherlands, and typically colored blue and white.

MisanthropeA person who does not trust mankind.

The EditorEdwin Bryant, famous 1800s newspaper editor and founder/editor of the Literary Cadet.

Page 9

LeathernMade out of leather.

Page 10

Princeton (New Jersey) City in New Jersey, about 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Georgetown One of the oldest neighborhoods in Washington DC.; It runs along the Potomac River and served as a major port during colonial times.

Page 11

Goardingprobably a printer's error; intended word was likely goading, meaning provoking or annoying. Fifty pounds British currency still in use in the United States at this time.

Page 12

Pinioned — to restrain by binding the arms together.

Page 13

Southern market — The Southern slave trade.

IntreatedAlternate spelling of "entreated," to plead.

Alas An exclamation conveying grief or sorrow.

Page 14

Mouldy Alternate spelling of "moldy."

Charleston, S.C.A major South Carolina port city, important to the transatlantic as well as national slave trade.

Page 15

Divine providence Intervention or delivery by God.

SpiritsDistilled beverage. Includes most hard liquors.

ViolAlternate spelling of "vial," a small container for liquids, usually medicines.

QuakersPopular name for members of the Society of Friends, a radical Protestant sect in England and the Americas.

Page 16

JocoslyJocosely, in a happy, joking manner.

GaolerBritish variant of "jailer," one who operates a jail.

IronedPut in shackles or handcuffs.

Page 17

Supreme Being Term for God.

Page 18

HallooingTo catch someone's attention.

Page 19

Trifiling Trifling. Lacking in significance or solid worth.

Page 20

Draughmisspelling of draught, a swallow of a liquid.

BostonLocated in North America, capital of the state of Massachusetts.

WhitherTo which specified place or position (

Page 21

NeptuneRoman god of the sea.

Page 24

WharvesFlat structure that is built along the shore of a river or ocean so that ships can unload cargo or passengers.

Page 25

TarryTo delay or be tardy in acting or doing; to linger in expectation.

birthprinter's error, berth -- a bed or bunk on a ship.

ThenceFrom that circumstance or source.

Page 26

DweltAlternate of dwelled; resided in a particular place.

Hon. Tristam BrugissTristam Burges, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Page 27

TwinPrinter's error: twine, a thin string.

Surtout CoatA man's overcoat resembling a frock coat.

Page 29

HovelSmall, poorly built house.

Page 30

PeckUnit of capacity equal to 1/4 bushel.

Supreme AuthorGod.

RedeemerFor Christians, Jesus Christ.

Page 31

'erePrevious to, before.

Page 32

Rights of ManThe Rights of Man (1791) by U.S. revolutionary Thomas Paine.

I would not have . . . fasten them on himFrom "The Time-Piece" a section of The Task (1785), by William Cowper.

Page 34

BurthenOld form of the word burden; something that is emotionally difficult to bear and or a source of great worry or stress.

PatridgePrinter's error; a partridge, brown bird often hunted for food and sport.